It is generally acknowledged that dogs are therapeutic. Notice I didn’t say, owning a dog is therapeutic, because I’m not sure who owns whom. Dogs of any age are a blessing, long after your kids no longer get excited about you coming home, a dog will always view you as hot property.
A word about cats and dogs.
Poppy has been blessed to have been owned by both dogs and cats, and both are great. But cats and dogs are different (see how smart Poppy is)? Perhaps the best explanation between the two that I have read is this: Dogs think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … they must be Gods. Cats think; they love me, they feed me, they take care of me … I must be a God.
Puppies, as cute as they might be, are exhausting. Perhaps it’s because my muzzle is also grizzled, that I feel a connection with old dogs. Old dogs seem at peace with themselves, a virtue that is often hard to attain as a human. Years spent with a dog creates a bond unlike anything else.
On November the 8th, 2016 we said goodbye to Zsa-Zsa, our beloved pug of thirteen plus years. Yes, November the 8th was also election day (I choose not to read anything into the coincidence). Like most pugs, Zsa-Zsa was blessed with an excess of personality. She was fiercely loyal to her family, her pack. We may have failed at her training because I’m pretty sure Zsa-Zsa thought she ran the family. She also assumed the role of family protector. The family was outside once when she spotted intruders encroaching upon our property. Before I could stop her she was off. The matched pair of Rottweilers looked up, alerted by her barking, to the fast closing 25 lbs. of pure pug fury bearing down on them. Fortunately the dog’s owners were friends of ours. Even more fortunate, the Rottweilers had more sense than, Zsa-Zsa, our intrepid pug. They looked down on her with mild amusement and didn’t even offer a replying bark.
For reasons I don’t understand, God has decreed that our dogs will age faster than us. Zsa-Zsa got to the point where she could no longer navigate stairs, let alone charge Rottweilers. But her faithfulness never faltered. Old dogs have a way of looking at you that communicates something entirely different from a puppy. A puppy will look at you with eager eyes that say, “I love you, let’s play.” An old dog will raise its head from the floor, look you in the eye with a depth of knowledge about you that conveys not only love but that says, “I understand.”
Dogs are capable of mischief, they can be sneaky, especially when it comes to stealing food from forbidden sources, but they are incapable of duplicity. Trust, unwavering loyalty, steadfastness, these are the structural traits of our canine companions. Old dogs are calming. No matter what is going on in the world, no matter what kind of day you’ve had, they understand.
I’ve started to think, that to say, “I understand,” or “I know you,” is more intimate than saying, “I love you.” Evidently the Psalmist thought so too. David in Psalm 139 says, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me,” and later in the Psalm, ” If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
I’ve watched Zsa-Zsa sleep the sound sleep of an old dog, her chest rising and falling with labored breathing, but still twitching as she chased rabbits and Rottweilers in her dreams. I’ve watched as she struggled to stand. I would scoop her into my arms then hold her fast in my right hand as I carried her down the stairs and to the yard outside. When I placed her down, she would often look up at me, and her eyes said, “I’m sorry its come to this.”
“I understand,” I replied.
The world is in need of a lot of understanding. The therapy of an old dog resting its head on our collective feet might be just what we need to put things into perspective. God created dogs with an honesty and empathy that often escapes us “higher” creatures.
We’re going to need a lot of old dogs!
In case you’re wondering, of course dogs go to heaven!